I had a feeling, as I was finishing my post on Thursday, that I was potentially jinxing myself on Friday by saying my son was having an awesome week.
Unfortunately, my intuition was right.
Friday was tough for me. It was one of those days where I knew there was nothing I could do to make him not be the fussiest guy in the world. It’s days like that when I find parenting to be the hardest for me.
It’s days like that I feel like taking the easy road and giving up. Giving up is different for different people. For me it’s doing things I wouldn’t normally do just to get through the day and escape reality. It’s doing things I’m going to beat myself up for later.
Because I hate doing things I’m just going to regret later I naturally adopted what I would later find out was called: Intentional Parenting. Now, I had been calling it that only to find out later that not only did it already have a term but it had books and a whole group of people who were passionate about the same things I was: Parenting with Purpose.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard friends, family, and even strangers giving me their opinions about some of our choices which include delaying television, limiting sweets, keeping him on a structured schedule, or even avoiding some events because we feel it will be overwhelming, for him and us. In a lot of ways I understand that they’re trying to make my life easier (although some are just getting their agendas across), but in reality we’ve adjusted.
I cook with my son. I try to get the majority done during naps or evenings but if he’s up then he’s my little helper. We clean together. That kid is great with a vacuum. He’s also getting better with keeping himself occupied while I spend 10-15 minutes picking up here or there. But sometimes my house is messy and sometimes we just need to have breakfast or pizza for dinner and sometimes the laundry piles up until the weekend. We’ve chosen to be present and engaged in one another’s lives and that means that sometimes our home, our sleep, and our “free time” suffers.
I pretty much shut down when people judge my parenting because I know I parent from a place that feels so right to me. Which is why “intentional parenting” just works for us. It’s parenting with thought and purpose, something we strive to do in every area of our lives. Whether we are going to school, work, or focused on improving our bodies or homes we do so with intention. The same holds true for me with parenting.
It’s not about one right way and definitely not about doing what others think is best. For me intentional parenting is making purposeful decisions in regards to your child and then sticking to that even when the going gets tough, like it did for me on Friday. That also doesn’t mean being rigid but adjusting as necessary with intention and decisiveness.
Just to be clear, I am in no way shape or form saying that I am perfect and am 100% engaged with my son at all times. On the contrary, part of why this is so important to me is because I need to remind myself about 100 times a day to be here in the moment. Whether I take a quick second to check my phone while he eats to find it’s 10 minutes later, he’s done, and is waiting for me to wake up, or calling my mom on FaceTime so I can get 5 minutes to take a breath, or even when we’re on the floor playing Lego’s and I feel my mind wandering to things my brain tells me are more important than being in that moment with my son. I have to constantly remind myself to just be in the moment. Build the Lego’s, Christine- you’ll thank yourself later.
At the end of the night on Friday, after I’d crashed on the couch for an hour, my husband came and sat down next to me. He commiserated with me and said he was so sorry I’d had a rough day. We got to talking and I got really emotional. As a mom, the most important thing for me is knowing I’m trying my hardest. When my son is older I don’t want him to think I was perfect. I want him to know I tried so very hard to be the best mother I could be and that I made decisions and took actions based on those intentions.
I know it will just get harder. I’m beginning to see him challenge me behaviorally and dealing with the realities of parenting a toddler, but I truly hope I can continue to make the choices I believe are the right ones for him, not the ones that are easiest for me or others.
And that doesn’t mean I’m being a martyr, it means I’m being a mother.